Dr. Seemi Aziz (Raina) has a Masters and a PhD from the University of Arizona in the field of education and is an Assistant Professor at Oklahoma State University. Her interests are in reading and literacy, visual culture, and cross- cultural representations. Her research focus is multicultural adolescent and children’s literature, specifically representations of Muslims within the literature. She has presented her research at local, national, and international conferences. She has written widely on her research interests. She is on the Board of Directors of the Worlds Of Words (wowlit.org), and was a member in USBBY Outstanding International Books Committee. She is author of Teaching Islamic Religious Art as an Aid to the Understanding of Islamic Culture (2008).
Dr. Henry Goldschmidt is Director of Education Programs at The Interfaith Center of New York. Henry is a cultural anthropologist, community educator, and scholar of New York’s religious diversity. He received his Ph.D. in anthropology from the University of California at Santa Cruz, and has taught religious studies and cultural anthropology at Wesleyan University and elsewhere. He is the author of Race and Religion among the Chosen Peoples of Crown Heights (Rutgers University Press, 2006) and the coeditor of Race, Nation, and Religion in the Americas (Oxford University Press, 2004).
Annie Rawlings is the Director of Outreach and Program Administration at The Interfaith Center of New York. She was the lead staff for the Prepare New York initiative: a collaboration of six interfaith organizations to promote inter- religious understanding as part of the observance of the tenth anniversary of September 11th. She was also an advisor for the New York Council for the Humanities Community Conversations toolkit for September 11th. She currently oversees the Debate in the Neighborhood Project, a Prisoner Reentry Project that involves Christian and Muslim faith leaders in Harlem, and Astoria Conversations, which seeks to connect newer Muslim and Hindu immigrants with more settled Greek and Italian communities in Astoria, Queens. She was previously the Interim Executive Presbyter for Social Witness for the Presbytery of New York City (PCUSA), the Executive Director of the Bertram M. Beck Institute on Religion and Poverty at Fordham University, and the Director of A Partnership of Faith in New York City. Annie co-founded the New York State Interfaith Network for Immigration Reform, and the national Presbyterian Church (USA) Criminal Justice Network, and is a Steering Committee member of both initiatives. She received a Master of Divinity from Union Theological Seminary.
Dr. Nerina Rustomji is an Associate Professor of History at St. John’s University. She specializes in the intellectual and cultural formation of Islamic societies and the Middle East. Additionally, she is interested in America’s relationship with the Muslim World, prophetic biography as a historical genre, gendered configurations in Islamic societies, and the history of secularism. Her first book The Garden and the Fire: Heaven and Hell in Islamic Culture (Columbia University Press, 2009) narrates a history of heaven and hell in Islamic texts, material cultures, and book arts from the seventh century C.E. She is currently completing her second book, Images of Houris and Visions of Islam, which examines how contemporary Muslims, American media, and European intellectuals represent one of the most sensational tropes about Islam: pure female companions or houris in Islamic Paradise. The project, which has received fellowship support from the American Council of Learned Societies (2007-2008) and the American Center of Oriental Research in Amman, Jordan (2008), seeks to show how varying religious and political interpretations use medieval tropes and reconfigure them for battles about Islamic religion and society in the twenty-first century.
Fatima Shama was appointed by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg as Commissioner of the NYC Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs in August, 2009. Commissioner Shama had previously served as Senior Education Policy Advisor at the Mayor’s Office. Prior to joining the Bloomberg Administration in 2006, Ms. Shama served for four years as Executive Director of the Greater Brooklyn Health Coalition. Ms. Shama earned a Bachelor of Arts from Binghamton University and a Masters of Public Administration from Baruch College’s School of Public Affairs Executive Program.
Dr. Shawkat M. Toorawa attended the University of Pennsylvania and received a B.A. (Hons) in Arabic and Islamic Studies, an M.A. in modern Arabic, and a Ph.D. in classical Arabic literature. He has taught Arabic at Duke University, medieval French literature and Indian Ocean studies at the University of Mauritius, and worked in a family import/export company in Kuala Lumpur and Port-Louis. In 2000, he joined Cornell University, where he is currently Associate Professor of Arabic Literature and Islamic Studies in the Department of Near Eastern Studies. His current research and teaching interests include: the Qur’anic lexicon, in particular hapaxes and rhyme-words; the literary and writerly culture of Abbasid Baghdad; the southwest Indian Ocean; the 18th century Indian author, Azad Bilgrami; the poetry of the modern Syro-Lebanese poet Adonis; and the Creole-language Mauritian author Dev Virahsawmy. Shawkat’s recent books include Islam: a short guide to the faith (2011), which he co-edited with Roger Allen, and Flame Tree Lane, an edition and translation of a Mauritian novella. He is preparing as co-executive editor a critical edition of Bilgrami’s Cure for the Ailing for the Library of Arabic Literature, an initiative to edit and translate the pre- modern Arabic literary heritage. He also translated passages of the Qur’an into rhyming English prose. He consulted on the humanities content for Muslim Voices.